Manchester United regained top position in the FA Women's Championship with a comfortable victory against Sheffield United at Leigh Sports Village on Thursday night.
Reds substitute Lizzie Arnot ensured the points were safe midway through the second half, when slotting home from close range after some strong work by Hanson.
Following the recent 12-0 away trouncing of Aston Villa, expectations were high as Stoney’s side arrived at Leigh Sports Village for United’s first home league match of the campaign and the hosts did indeed start brightly.
Alex Greenwood, who was recalled to the starting XI, nearly scored the opener inside five minutes after a fantastic run through the Sheffield United midfield and defence. Unfortunately for the Reds' skipper, the attempt failed to find the target.
Five minutes later though, United were in front after James was fouled inside the area by Blades defender Ellie Fletcher. Zelem, who scored from the spot against Aston Villa, made no mistakes to put the Reds ahead with a composed finish.
This early setback did not deter the visitors and they continued to apply pressure as a run from Ellie Gilliatt forced Millie Turner into action to clear the danger. United also had chances to double the lead. James’ incisive through ball looked set to find Jess Sigsworth, but it was intercepted before it could reach the in-form forward who scored five against Villa.
Sigsworth then turned provider and laid the ball off to Hanson whose effort from outside the area smashed against the woodwork. The opening goalscorer, Zelem, then had a chance to complete a brace from close range, only for her shot to go straight at the grateful Hobbs.
Just as the Blades were growing in confidence, the Reds put daylight between the teams. With minutes to go before half-time, Hanson unleashed a curling right-footed effort from outside the box which looped over the head of Hobbs and gave Stoney’s side some breathing space going into the break.
The Reds were out of sight midway through the second half when Hanson muscled her way into the box from the right-hand side and her square ball across the face of goal fell to substitute Arnot, who was on hand to slot the ball into the net and seal all three points for her side.
Lauren James, who scored a cracker against Aston Villa, had a chance to make it 4-0, but the teenager’s effort from outside the box was off target on this occasion. With five minutes to go, the hosts hit the bar again as Aimee Palmer’s powerful effort from distance nearly found its way into the goal.
There was one moment of concern for the league leaders in the latter stages as Hanson was forced off with five minutes to go and the maximum number of substitutes already used, leaving the Reds to finish the game with ten players on the pitch.
That aside, this was still a great evening's work for the Reds, giving the squad plenty of confidence going into this Sunday’s away fixture against London Bees at the Hive Stadium.
United Women: Chamberlain; Harris, A. Turner, M. Turner, Greenwood (c); Zelem, Green (Palmer 45), James; Hanson, Toone (Arnot 45), Sigsworth (Devlin 64).
Substitutes not used: Bentley, Hartley, Devlin, Smith.
NEXT HOME MATCH
Manchester United Women’s next home match at Leigh Sports Village is against Durham Women in the league on Sunday 30 September, kick-off 12:00 BST. Match tickets are on sale at www.manutd.com/womenstickets and priced at £5 (£2.50 for U16s/65+).